Sinn Féin - On Your Side

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Sinn Féin Mid Ulster MLA, Gereldine Dougan has expressed anger at the decision of the Parades Commission's to overturn its' determination on a Loyalist Band parade in Maghera. Ms Dougan said:

"This is a disgraceful decision. In recent days and weeks Loyalist paramilitaries have been actively targeting nationalists in the town. The decision to reverse the ban on this Loyalist Band parade coming through mainly nationalist areas in Maghera is wrong. There will be the perception that the Parades Commission has caved into to threats of Loyalist violence.

"This flawed u-turn will cause major disruption to the town and result in nationalists being hemmed into their own homes by the PSNI to facilitate this coat trailing exercise.

"It will heighten tensions at a time when nationalists are already angry about the way that the Parades Commission caved in to threats of Loyalist violence on the Springfield Road and how the PSNI overturned a Parades Commission determination to facilitate loyalists in Ardoyne and Lurgan." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Housing Spokesperson, West Belfast MLA Fra McCann has said that the latest figures for mortgage repossession showing yet another increase in the number repossessions - up 32% on the same quarter last year indicate that the underlying problems with the housing market are not being addressed.

Mr McCann said:

"The increase in the number of mortgage repossession, up 32%, should send out a warning signal that there are still very serious problems with the housing market. In the last quarter there were 597 writs and originating summonses relating to mortgages issued. This is more than in any other quarter since 1999.

"There are clearly not enough properties available within the public housing market to meet demand. Housing Executive waiting lists remain stubbornly high. Increasing house prices also put young families in particular at a disadvantage and the increasing numbers of evictions indicate that many people are being forced to take on mortgages that are unsustainable.

"Until we take steps to put in place a housing strategy that meets the need that exists these problems will remain.

"We also need to address the very serious ongoing problem of homelessness - during the period January to March 2004 nearly 5,000 families presented as homeless. There is no capacity within the Housing Executive stock to deal with this or the ongoing demand to tackle the waiting lists that are particularly acute within nationalists areas where even people with priority A1 status are not being housed." ENDS

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Commenting on the outcome of the High Court case taken by four County Monaghan women seeking the restoration of the Maternity Unit at Monaghan General Hospital, Sinn Féin Health spokesperson and Cavan/Monaghan TD Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin said it "in no way diminishes" the case for the restoration of the unit and he called on the Minister for Health and Children Micheál Martin to act.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

"The four women from Co. Monaghan who took this case deserve praise for their tenacity in pursuing it to the High Court. The negative judgement in no way

diminishes the case for the restoration of the Maternity Unit at Monaghan. On the contrary, the Minister for Health and Children should listen once more to

the voices of the people of Co. Monaghan who were fully behind this case. It was another avenue they were forced to pursue after this Government ignored the long-running campaign for the restoration and development of services at the hospital, including petitions, public meetings, marches, vigils and the united

views of virtually all elected representatives and public bodies in County Monaghan. The campaign in defence of the hospital will and must go on."ENDS

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North Antrim Sinn Féin MLA Philip McGuigan has given a cautious welcome to the shelving of plans to build a lignite mine near Ballymoney.

Mr McGuigan said:

" Whilst the removal of Ballymoney Power's mining application must be warmly welcomed, we must not assume that this is the end of the matter. There is always the threat of a fresh application to develop a mine and the community needs to be kept informed of any such move.

"Sinn Féin will continue to monitor any future moves by this company and will continue to support the good work of our local anti-lignite mining group, who have done sterling work in protecting local people's health, environment and livelihoods."

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Sinn Fein Spokesperson on Social Development, West Belfast MLA Fra McCann has called on British direct rule Minister John Spellar to explain how socially deprived areas will be better off with the introduction of the Neighbourhood Renewal Scheme if there is no new money available.

Mr McCann said:

"After months of consultation, discussions and meetings, one thing that was evident is that there will be no new money available to deal with socially deprived areas that have suffered decades of neglect. Without a significant injection of new additional money all that is being proposed is a reallocation of existing resources or something akin to the rearranging of the deck chairs on the Titanic.

"The reality may be that without new money that groups from the community and voluntary sector that have done so much to meet the needs of an area are forced to close under the new scheme. John Spellar, who I will be seeking urgent assurances from, needs to explain how the loss of such groups can possibly benefit these areas.

"John Spellar needs to recognise that socially deprived communities are entitled to more resources. The failure to commit to extra resources for these communities highlights the failure of direct rule Ministers and others within the NIO to get to grips with the Equality Agenda and the absolute requirement for change within our society." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Health Spokesperson, Upper Bann MLA John O'Dowd has welcomed the announcement that stand-alone Midwife units have been given the green light.

Mr O'Dowd said:

"Sinn Fein have argued for the establishment of stand alone Midwife led maternity units for a considerable time.

"The development of these units has the potential to transform the birthing experience of mothers. It offers them greater control and say and should enable women to get even greater support throughout pregnancy.

"I would urge Trusts and Boards to rise to the challenge of developing these units within their area. It will allow the development maternity services closer to the home of expectant mothers." ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Communications Seán Crowe TD said this morning's news that An Post was to close its SDS service was "a complete sellout " adding that it "would not improve the overall viability of the company."

Deputy Crowe said:

"An Post ran into serious difficulties last year and came to an agreement with workers which now seems was stillborn. Having made a commitment to improve the SDS service, they actually did the opposite and made the service even less competitive and more cumbersome for customers to use. The service has not improved and the management has been engaging in a sort of 'remote control management' style, with absolutely no consideration for their workforce, many of whom have been with them for decades. Selling the SDS division is simply engaging in asset-stripping and it will not improve the overall viability of the company. Stripping an essential component of the company sends the wrong message to the workers.

"I have to ask Minister Dermot Ahern what, if anything, he has managed to achieve over the past year in helping to resolve the difficulties within An Post? I want to know what his views are on the redundancies thrust upon theseworkers and, particularly, I want to hear what will be the fate of the 'owner drivers' who took the brave leap last year of leasing vans under a new contract scheme which promised them a three year deal. What will now become of this deal?

"The management may want to concentrate on their core business of delivering letters but An Post has a universal obligation to deliver parcels, both within and outside Ireland regardless. What service will we now have to ensure people can continue to receive the traditional parcels from loved ones abroad?"ENDS

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Sinn Fein Health Spokesperson John O' Dowd has welcomed the announcement that there will be a new Diving Chamber based in the Craigavon Hospital as a result of £200,000 being made available.

Mr O'Dowd said:

"This is new diving chamber will be a valuable resource for people throughout the North West. It is a testament to the hard work and innovation being taken forward by the CAWT (Co-operation and Working Together) group.

"This is a shining example of the benefits of the All Ireland approach to developing services that can benefit people regardless or where the border is.

"The potential of developing more services on an All Ireland basis needs to further advanced. In many areas, not just in the provision of Health services, the reality is that the All Ireland approach is the only one that will see better access to services." ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP this morning met with the CEO of Interbrew to discuss the future of the Glen Road Brewery.

Mr Adams said:

"As part of a series of meetings with Trade Unions, management and statutory bodies to discuss the future of the Glen Road brewery I met with Steve Cahillane the CEO of Interbrew this morning.

"The Glen Road brewery is a vital and successful business with a long history in West Belfast. We wish to see production and employment levels maintained on the Glen Road site and we raised our concerns over the future of the plant with Interbrew this morning.

"I once again committed myself to working to ensure the long term future of the brewery in West Belfast." ENDS

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Upper Bann Sinn Féin Assembly member John O'Dowd has demanded that the RIR be removed from the streets in the wake of the Castlereagh collusion scandal. Mr O'Dowd's comments come after the RIR set up a checkpoint in Lurgan town centre yesterday afternoon.

Mr O'Dowd said:

"Yesterday the RIR set up a check point in the middle of Lurgan town centre causing serious traffic delays and disruption for people trying to go about their everyday business.

"Given the proven involvement of the RIR and before them the UDR in collusion with unionist paramilitaries their presence on the streets ten years into a peace process is completely unacceptable.

"This situation is made even worse given the involvement of the RIR in the ongoing and developing Castlereagh collusion scandal. The British government need to get real about their responsibilities regarding the future of what is effectively a unionist militia. Nationalists cannot be expected to tolerate this organisation causing disruption and gathering intelligence any longer." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Health Spokesperson, Upper Bann MLA John O'Dowd has questioned the link between increased risks from hospital infection from MRSA which resulted in 30 deaths in our hospitals last year and the privatisation of hospital services and the legacy of under investment.

Mr O'Dowd said:

"There are very serious health risks now associated with going into hospital. Fifteen years ago MSRA was rare yet now it is common and there are a variety of other superbugs that are very resistant to antibiotic treatment.

"I think we have to analysis how the current level of hospital infection was established. I would be concerned particularly at the levels of hospital cleanliness and hygiene and the monitoring practices and the standard of services that have been privatised.

"We have already begun to put in place mechanism to hold hospitals and trusts accountable for cleanliness yet we also have to look at the wider issues around occupancy rates as well. The level of demand on our hospitals require very high occupancy rates yet high levels of occupancy push up the risk of infection from MRSA and in some cases death, Increasing capacity is one way to start meeting the high levels of demand while keeping occupancy rates at sensible levels.

"We also need to adopt and adapt best practice from elsewhere. Evidence has shown that hospitals can eradicate MRSA by introducing stringent practices in and outside the Hospital. Including:

All patients scheduled to attend the hospital are screened for the virus before entering wards.

Staff have to wash hands after tending to each patient.

Visitors are not allowed to use chairs etc used by patients.

Extra cleaning staff employed.

"The measures cost money but savings can be made from the fact patients are not being kept in due to infection or dying unnecessarily in our hospitals.

"The long-term under funding of our entire health service by successive British governments has resulted in much hospital accommodation that is old and dilapidated. Our hospital infrastructure urgently needs a massive injection of capital funds if we are ever going to begin to win the war against hospital infection." ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Arthur Morgan T.D. has called on An Taoiseach Mr Bertie Ahern T.D. to demonstrate the sincerity of comments he made regarding the hardship created by the inflated cost of houses in the Dublin region by intervening to address the problem. Deputy Morgan called on the Taoiseach to implement the 9th Progress Report of the Oireachtas All-Party Committee on the Constitution regarding the price of building land.

Deputy Morgan said,

„An Taoiseach Bertie Ahern speaking yesterday from the Galway Races commented on the fact that houses in Dublin cost over €100,000 more than in the rest of the country. He did so in a rather desperate attempt to tempt unwilling civil servants to decentralise. An Taoiseach went on to describe these excessive house prices as "huge inflictions on young people" trying to secure housing. This is grossly hypocritical coming from An Taoiseach given his refusal, to date, to implement the recommendations of the 9th Progress Report of the Oireachtas All-Party Committee on the Constitution in relation to the price of building land including the recommendation to give local authorities greater power to CPO land for housing at existing use value. Reducing the cost of building land is key to reducing the cost of housing, particularly in the Dublin area where the hoarding of land by a small number of developers and speculators has driven up house prices. The Constitution Committee‚s Report must be implemented if we are to make any progress in reducing the price of building land.

"Many will question the sincerity of Mr Ahern‚s concern for young people priced out of the housing market. Especially as it was expressed as he mingled with the developers and speculators who gather at the Fianna Fáil fundraising tent at the Galway Races this week and who have made spectacular profits on the backs of dangerous over-borrowing by young people." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Assembly group leader, Newry Armagh MLA Conor Murphy speaking to a meeting of the Sinn Fein Assembly team in Belfast today about the schedule for intensive talks in September has said that the British government has a clear-cut choice - either it stands with the Good Friday Agreement, and builds a bridge toward democracy and equality, or it sides with the forces of reaction and the agenda of securocrats within the NIO.

Mr Murphy said:

"As September approaches, and negotiations go into a new mode, the British government has a clear-cut choice. Either it stands with the Good Friday Agreement, and builds a bridge toward democracy and equality, or it sides with the forces of reaction as successive British government's did for decades. The challenge is for Mr Blair to get his system on board the Good Friday Agreement. So far he has failed to do this.

"Tony Blair has said if the process isn't going forward it will go backwards. Elements within his own system, particularly within the NIO, are doing their best to subvert progress and to encourage the backward slide.

"If British policy is the Good Friday Agreement, then the two governments have to have a common strategy to bring it about.

"However, the Irish Government wants an inquiry into Pat Finucane's killing but the, as British government, despite saying that it would do so, has refused to establish an inquiry. London's refusal to deal properly with the issue of collusion is of particular significance. The British government's handling of the Human Rights Commission and equality issues also go to the heart of this issue and in many ways is the clearest example of what the appeasement of unionism has led to.

"What have all these issues in common? They are all managed by unionists, and in some cases, securocrats. Progress in September requires the British government to chose the Agreement over the agenda of securocrats within the NIO." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MEPs Bairbre de Brún (6 Counties) and Mary Lou McDonald (Dublin) have today said that they will 'advance Sinn Féin's agenda for change on EU committees in Brussels.'

Both Ms de Brún and Ms McDonald announced the EU Committees which they will sit on during the Parliament's current term of office: Employment and Social Affairs (Mary Lou McDonald), Regional Policy (Bairbre de Brún), LIBE (Citiizens freedom and rights, justice and home affairs, Substitute Committee) and ENVI (Environment, Public Health and Consumer Policy, Substitute Committee)

Both MEPs were speaking as they prepared to travel to Brussels today:

"Committee representation will ensure that we can further advance our agenda for change at EU level. The Employment Committee will allow us to lobby vigorously against privatisation within the EU, especially in the crucial areas of education and health. We will also continue to propose legislation within the EU towards safeguarding workers rights.

"In the area of Regional Policy, Sinn MEPs will work towards a programme of rural regeneration to revitalise rural Irish communities. We will also seek to expand upon the all Ireland agenda.

"These committees present Sinn Féin with the opportunity to advance our agenda for change within the EU. We will work constructively with a broad alliance of people to bring about the positive changes required both in Ireland and throughout the EU."ENDS

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Tá muid le chéile ag uaigh Joe Cahill. Le chéile mar chlann mór ag faire amach dá cheile. Mar chairde inár gcroithe, inár n-anamacha, inár bhfíseanna. Le chéile le Annie agus páistí Joe agus Annie. Le chéile leis an phobal is i measc an phobail. Is ócáid mór an tórramh seo, ócáid mór inár saol agus i saol ár strácáilt. Ba mhaith liom buíochas a thabairt d'achan duine anseo. Is bfeidir liom a rá gan amhras go mbeadh uncail Joe sasta scaifte mór mar seo a fheiceáil.

Everybody here and most certainly the people who know Joe Cahill will have a story to tell. Joe was a multi-dimensional person. He was a husband, a father, a grandfather, a great grandfather, a brother, an uncle, a comrade, and a friend. He was also a story teller and he would delight in all the stories that were told in the wake house and in homes across this island and the USA and in the corridors of the British establishment, as news of his death spread.

Joe lived a long life and it's quite impossible to sum that life up in a few words. I don't believe in eulogising the dead but I do believe in celebrating life and particularly a life well lived - a life spent in struggle and in activism. Of all of us who shared that life one person deserves our heartfelt thanks. That person is a wonderful woman, and a republican in her own right, Annie Cahill.

I have a great grá and admiration for Annie. On your behalf I want to thank her and her wonderful family. I also want to thank the extended Cahill clann. All the in-laws and outlaws, the older people and the young ones, all the grandchildren, great grandchildren, nieces and nephews.

I first saw Joe Cahill when I was about 14 or 15 going into the Ard Scoil in Divis Street. Some of you knew him for much longer than that. I am thinking here of Madge McConville, Willie John McCorry, Maggie Adams, and Bridget Hannon.

Joe had the great capacity to work with his contemporaries while relating to much younger people. So when I said that people will have stories to tell it could be prison stories stretching over the decades, from his time in the death cell with Tom Williams, to Mountjoy and Portlaoise, or New York. It could be stories by his comrades in the IRA, their exploits and difficulties, their trials and tribulations. It could be stories of travels through Irish America. Or of Sinn Féin gatherings all over Ireland. Quite uniquely there will also be stories about Joe Cahill told by Albert Reynolds, by Tony Blair, by Bill Clinton, and by Col. Ghaddafi.

I'm very mindful of the fact that in the 1970s when Joe went back to full time Republican work he was already in his 50's. At a time when most people would be thinking of retirement he was back into a rollercoaster of activism and the difficulties of separation from his family.

He is one, almost the last of that group of people, his contemporaries who came forward into the bhearna bhaoil in 1969. People like Jimmy Steel, JB O'Hagan, John Joe McGirl, MacAirt, Bridie Dolan, Seamus Twomey, Jimmy and Maire Drumm, Billy McKee, Mary McGuigan, Daithi O Connall, Sean Keenan, Sean MacStiofain, Ruairí O'Bradaigh, John O'Rawe, and many, many others.

Joe hated being exiled. He was looked after by good people. But even with dear friends, such as Bob and Bridie Smith, Joe told me that on Sundays he would drive into the Wicklow Mountains and think of Annie, his son Tom and the girls. At times, he told me, he cried to be with them.

He had a great wicked sense of humour and a caustic wit. He was also withering when it came to dealing with people who he thought were failing to do their best. When Joe became active in Sinn Féin he was one of the party's treasurers. He was scrupulous and extremely stingy with party funds. In fact his stinginess was legendary. But his logic was impeccable. If he managed to spend a lifetime in struggle without spending a proverbial penny of republican money, he expected everyone else to spend even less.

Joe was a physical force republican. He made no apologies for that. But like all sensible people who resort to armed struggle because they feel there is no alternative he was prepared to defend, support and promote other options when these were available. Without doubt there would not be a peace process today without Joe Cahill. And he had no illusions about the business of building peace. Peace requires justice because peace is more than the absence of conflict.

Joe understood the necessity of building political strength and while political strength requires more than electoralism, Joe spent the recent election count glued to the TV set in his sick room and he rejoiced and marvelled at Sinn Féin's successes right across this island. For him the cream on the cake of the growth of our party north and south was Mary Lou and Bairbre's election.

His big fear was that the governments would not respect the people's mandate. His concern was that the establishment, both Irish and British, would deny and not uphold citizen's rights and entitlements. Joe knew that for a peace process to succeed it must be nurtured particularly by those in positions of power. He was not surprised at the explosion of nationalist anger in Ardoyne in recent weeks. He told me to tell Tony Blair, and I did, that the British government is failing the peace process. Joe's generation were beaten off the streets of this city for decades by the combined might of the corporate state. In his younger days even Easter commemorations were outlawed. Any dissent from the status quo was banned.

Let those in power note that we are not ever going back to the old days of second class citizens. Uncle Joe knew those days were over because we were off our knees and he was proud to have played a part in creating today's confident, magnanimous and assertive nationalism.

The Irish and British government's should take note of what Joe Cahill said. If an 84 year old veteran activist, with a knowledge of all the difficulties of struggle, if someone who's been through it all, believes that a British government is failing the peace process then what must an 18 or 19 year old think?

At this time in the process it is the securocrats on the British side and their allies who are calling the shots and it is obvious that their agenda is about placating the most sectarian elements within unionism. The rights of citizens to live free from sectarianism, as proclaimed in the Good Friday Agreement, is secondary to the demands of a sectarian mob, because that mobs instincts are the same as the securocrats. They are against change. Joe watched recent events in Ardoyne and was not surprised. Neither should any of us be surprised.

Tony Blair has said if the process isn't going forward it will go backwards. We have told him in recent times that elements within his own system, particularly within the NIO, are doing their best to subvert progress and to encourage the backward slide. As September approaches, and negotiations go into a new mode, the British government has a clear cut choice. Either it stands with the Good Friday Agreement, and builds a bridge toward democracy and equality, or it sides with the forces of reaction as successive British government's did for decades.

There's lots more could be said on this issue but today is a day for celebrating the life of our friend. In reflecting on what I was going to say today I thought back on the last occasion that Joe and I and Annie and Martin McGuinness shared a public platform. At that event in Dublin Joe made a wonderful speech. I will finish by letting him speak for himself. I know that notion would amuse him. I have talked for long enough at his graveside. This is in part what he told us that evening. He said:

"I have had a long life and a good life. I have had a lucky life and I have had a life that many people have helped me in. And if I started to thank everybody that it was necessary to thank throughout my life we would be here to morning and you don't want that. You want to get on with a bit of craic.

We all have dreams and we all have desires. A few weeks ago I was being released from the Royal Victoria Hospital. As I was waiting to go down in the lift to the ground floor I happened to look out through the window and I saw the best sight ever of the Cave Hill.

I remember looking at the Cave Hill and I remember thinking that is where it all started. I thought of Tone and his comrades and what they said and what they planned to do. What struck me most was that they wanted to change the name of Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter to Irish people. That started me thinking and then I thought of the people who came after them. Emmet and what he tried to do and the message that he left us. My mind wandered on through the years to the Fenians and one man stuck out in my mind, not a Fenian, but a man called Francis Meagher who brought the flag that we all love, our Tricolour. He said, 'I have brought this flag from the barricades of France and I am presenting it to the Irish nation. Green represents the Catholic, the Orange the Protestant and the white the truce between them'. I hope that one day the hand of Protestant and Catholic will be united and respect that flag.

Then I thought of the Fenians and I thought of the likes of old Tom Clarke and what he had gone through in prison. I remembered that he was the first signatory to the 1916 Proclamation, which says it all as far as we are concerned. Then I thought of the 30s, 40s and what we went through at that time. The struggle we put up then and what we were up against. Right through into the 70s.

People have often asked me 'what keeps you going'. I think of Bobby Sands and Bobby said 'it is that thing inside me that tells me I'm right'. That's what drives me on. I know we are right.I think also what Bobby said about revenge. There is no revenge on his part. He said that the true revenge would be the laughter of our children.

I think of Tom Williams and the last days that I spent with him in the condemned cell. I think of that letter that he wrote out to his comrades, to the then Chief of Staff, Hugh McAteer. He said the road to freedom would be hard and that many a hurdle on that road would be very difficult. It has been a hard struggle but he said 'carry on my comrades until that certain day'. And that day that he talked about was the dawn of freedom.

Just one other remark I would like to make about Tom. It was his desire, as we all talked together when we were under the sentence of death, that one day our bodies would be taken out of Crumlin Road and laid to rest in Milltown. The reason I mention this at all is this is what determination does. This is what consistency and work does. I personally thought that I would never see Tom's remains coming out until we got rid of the British but people worked hard at that. People worked very, very hard and we got Tom's remains out. So with hard work it shows what you can do.

I don't want to keep you much longer but I too have a dream. In 2005 we will celebrate the 100th anniversary of Sinn Fein. I am not saying we are going to get our freedom by then but certainly we can pave the way by then. We can work hard. And hard work brings results.

I have been very; very lucky in the women I have met in my life. I owe a terrible lot to Annie. Never once, never once did she say don't, stop I don't want any more. She always encouraged me.

Somebody mentioned earlier on did I regret anything. I said no I didn't except for one thing. My family. That was tough. I often thought of Annie struggling with Tom, my son, the oldest of the family, and my six girls Maria, Stephanie, Nuala, Patricia, Aine, and the baby of the family, Deirdre. They are a credit to her, they have been a support to me and I thank God for people like my mother and Annie.

I will just finish off by saying there are so many people to be thanked for giving me help throughout my life. No matter where I was, if I was in America, in Europe, if I was down the South I always met great people who give me support. I am asking for that continued support not for me but for Sinn Fein, for the republican movement which is going to bring about the dreams of Ireland, the dreams of the United Irishmen, the dreams of Emmet, of the Fenians, of the men of 16. The dreams of those who have died through the 30s, the 40s and right into the present day and I am asking you to continue your support. Whatever little you have done in the past do that wee bit more and we will have our freedom."

Sin na focail Joe Cahill bígí ag éisteacht leis deánaigí bhur ndicheall. Comrades, we have lost a great republican and a true friend but his inspiration, his life, his vision of a new Ireland, a free Ireland outlives him.

A lot has changed in Joe Cahill's lifetime, not least because of his contribution. So let us go from here today recommitted in our resolve to continue our struggle and to carry on until that certain day.

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Sinn Féin Assembly Group leader, Newry Armagh MLA Conor Murphy commenting on the publication of party finances by the Electoral Commission has said that a significant proportion of the salaries of all elected representatives goes towards funding party growth.

Mr Murphy said:

"Across Ireland paid Sinn Féin elected representatives donate a considerable proportion of their salaries to fund party growth. Within the Assembly team every Sinn Féin MLA is paid exactly the same salary based on the average industrial wage. Our MLA's return at least 40% of their salary to fund party growth. This has generated over £300,000 in the north to deliver top quality constituency services, to fund party growth and build the agenda for Irish reunification.

"This commitment to the development of Sinn Féin from elected representatives is unique in Irish politics and is a demonstration of the commitment of all our representatives." ENDS

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South Monaghan Sinn Féin Councillor Matt Carthy has welcomed the statement from Minister Noel Ahern today (Monday 26th July) that the government is to initiate an investment programme to install central heating in those 45,000 local authority houses across the state that are currently without adequate heating systems. Cllr. Carthy said that this move was a key demand of Sinn Féin in the run up to June‚s local elections and he was happy that the government had finally taking this vital proposal on board.

Cllr. Carthy said:

"It is welcome and long overdue that Minister Ahern has announced that the 45,000 local authority houses without adequate heating systems are to have proper central heating installed. This was a key demand of Sinn Féin councillors for some time and it will be a huge relief to many individuals and families that the government have finally acknowledged the importance of this proposal.

"It is quite right that the 7,600 local authority homes without heating systems that are occupied by elderly persons will be prioritised. My only concern is that the €15m that has been allocated this year may not be sufficient to make satisfactory in-roads into the necessary works on these homes. I feel that this figure will need to be increased significantly and I would call on the Minister to ensure that adequate funding is allocated to provide central heating to all elderly council tenants this year.

Cloughvalley OPDs

At a local level I hope that this announcement will mean that the remedial works scheme for the OPD‚s in Cloughvalley, Carrickmacross can be initiated immediately. The residents of these houses have been waiting for far too long to have adequate heating installed and other necessary works completed. I will continue to pursue this matter with Monaghan County Council in a bid to have central heating installed before these residents have to endure yet another winter in sub-standard conditions."ENDS

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Sinn Féin Economy Spokesperson, Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew has said that the huge potential of all Ireland trade must be built upon after the Quarterly Monitor from Int4erTrade Ireland showed the continuing growth of all Ireland trade.

Ms Gildernew said:

"These latest figures show that the volume of all Ireland trade continues to grow. In the last three months of 2003 it was worth £350 million. With growth in North-South growing by nearly 5% it is vital that businesses in the north are given more support to develop all Ireland links.

"It is clear that the volume of trade has significantly increased over the past decade. The value of all manufacturing goods 'exported' from the north to the south has doubled and now account for 25% of our non-UK exports.

"While the overall value and volume of goods has increased it is clear from this statistical analysis that there is a far greater potential for growth in the volume and value of internal trade. In particular also southern businesses need to wake up to the opportunities that exist in doing business with their northern counterparts.

"Work on removing barriers to developing the all Ireland economy needs to continue. In recent weeks there has been the recognition about the importance of a single energy market, we now need to wake up to the other opportunities that exist particularly in developing and growing indigenous business.

"Increasingly people now advocate for a single island economy because they recognise its potential. Reunification would require substantial investment across the Ireland to re-establish the transport and communications infrastructure but also in terms of connecting economies and the creative and knowledge based centres across the island." ENDS

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Donegal Sinn Féin Councillor Pearse Doherty has today called upon Iarnród Éireann to "extend its current travel promotion to all of Ireland." Mr Doherty made his comments after he contacted Iarnród Éireann's Marketing Department today to enquire why its travel promotion, which offers travel to a "choice of 87 destinations - selling for only 10 Euro, excludes the Six Counties."

Speaking today, Councillor Doherty said:

"I received a number of calls this morning from members of the public who had spotted advertising banners at Connolly Station in Dublin over the weekend stating that Iarnród Eireann had launced a travel promotion of 10 Euro a ticket for destinations throughout the country. When I contacted Iarnród Éireann‚s Marketing Department I was informed that the travel promotion does not apply to cross border routes. I believe that this promotion is disenfranchising citizens from the Six Counties and those who make daily trips between Belfast and Dublin.

"Sinn Féin is calling for the extension of this promotion to include all of Ireland. We are also actively campaigning for an all Ireland approach to travel, ensuring equality for those using public transport wherever they live in Ireland." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MLA Raymond McCartney has called on DUP politician, William Hay MLA to apologise to the families of those nationalists and republicans murdered and injured by UDA and UVF death squads.

Mr McCartney stated:

"It seems that the criteria that William Hay and the DUP apply to enter into dialogue depends not on whether or not a party adhers to democratic principles and receives a mandate from the electorate but whether that organisation supports the British link.

"William Hay's response to an invitation from Derry Mayor, Gerry O hEára for all elected representatives to co-operate for the good of the region was an absolute disgrace. The DUP representative's comment that the reason his party can align itself with the UDA and the UVF is because - ' the UDA don't have a political party and pose no threat to the future of Northern Ireland, and the UVF are the same' - exposes the hypocrisy and double standards of Unionist politicians. Implicit in Mr Hay's comments is that they have no problem talking to the spokespersons of sectarian murder gangs, drug dealers and pimps so long as they 'pose no threat to the political future of Northern Ireland'. But if - as is Sinn Féin's political aspirations and objectives - you work peacefully for the ending British governmental interference in Ireland then the DUP will not engage in dialogue.

"The UDA and the UVF are still involved in both sectarian and racist attacks day and daily as well as polluting Willie Hay's own constituency through drugs and prostitution".

"Willie Hay and the DUP may bury their heads in the sand when it comes to the activity of the UDA and UVF by claiming they do not pose a threat to the 'future of Northern Ireland' but sooner rather than later they will have to sit down and deal with parties with legitimate mandates if we are all to move forward.

"I would call on Willie Hay to stop his hypocritical comments and encourage engagement with Sinn Féin, the democratic representatives of the majority of the nationalist people so that the issues that divide us can be resolved". ENDS

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